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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2005, 10:08 GMT
MoD stands firm over army names
A soldier from the Royal Regiment of Wales (RRW)
A soldier from the Royal Regiment of Wales (RRW)
The Ministry of Defence has refused to back down in a row with MPs over the historic names of two Welsh regiments.

The government said the new Royal Welsh would keep its identity and traditions.

Its new name will be followed by Royal Welch Fusiliers or Royal Welsh Regiment, unlike the Royal Regiment of Scotland, whose battalions will keep their traditional names first.

MP Gareth Thomas said that could be because the Scottish "Jockocracy" was stronger than the Welsh "Taffia".

Mr Thomas, the Labour MP for Clwyd West, also said it was important that the new regiment should have a base of some sort in Wrexham, currently the fusiliers' administrative headquarters.

The two current infantry regiments have a long and distinguished history and heritage... and I see no reason to kick that into touch
Major-General the Rev Morgan Llewellyn
A campaign has been launched in the town to protect the identity of the regiment and Wrexham council leaders will write to Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon.

A petition has also been placed in the Guildhall, the council's headquarters in Wrexham, and people have been asked to sign it to ensure the regiment keeps its name.

Mr Thomas sponsored a debate in Westminster Hall on Tuesday on the amalgamation of the regiments, announced in December as part of a shake-up of the army.

It would mean that the two regiments would become 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh (The Royal Welch Fusiliers) and 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh (The Royal Regiment of Wales).

But opponents claimed the name change would damage centuries of tradition and harm recruitment, which they said was often linked to the names.

A cross-party delegation of MPs will meet Mr Hoon next week and a petition will be presented to Downing Street.

Major-General the Reverend Morgan Llewellyn, a former commanding officer, Wales, said: "Scotland and Wales both have national identities and, like Scotland, Wales has a proud military tradition which is enshrined in its regiments.
An 1882 'Illustrated London News' drawing of the aftermath of the Battle of Rorke's Drift
Eight VCs were won by the South Wales Borderers at Rorke's Drift

"The two current infantry regiments have a long and distinguished history and heritage which belong to Wales and I see no reason to kick that into touch," he told the BBC News website.

Maj-Gen Llewellyn, who also used to be chief of staff at the headquarters of UK land forces, said Wales "punches way above its weight" in supplying soldiers, and the names helped "enormously in recruitment.

"MPs' mailbags are very full and it seems to me that the people of Wales have made their feelings known very strongly," he added.

Mr Thomas said: "We want the same as Scotland: to have the old names given pre-eminence in the new title.

Victoria Crosses

"I'm in favour of Army restructuring and creating these new regiments in order to respond to today's needs, but we have to retain those regimental loyalties and traditions and heritage which are part and parcel of the morale of our armed services."

When the changes were announced, Mr Hoon and army chiefs said they were needed to ensure an army fit to meet its commitments in the 21st century.
What matters is this 300 years of history
Bill Wiggin, Conservative MP
But although the new Scottish regiments will keep their traditional names more prominently, the proposals have run into opposition over the proposals to merge six into one.

Shadow Welsh Secretary Bill Wiggin, who used to serve with the Royal Welch Fusiliers, said he felt very strongly about the names.

"What matters is this 300 years of history," said Mr Wiggin. "The South Wales Borderers, who were merged to make the Royal Regiment of Wales, won eight Victoria Crosses at Rorke's Drift.

"This matters to people and it matters when it comes to recruitment. The government has made a terrible mistake and they've got a chance today to put it right."

But Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram told MPs the decision was taken by the executive committee of the army board after consulting the regiments.

Mr Ingram said the new regiment would preserve its Welsh identity and the government was committed to keeping their traditions.




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